BANGKOK (REUTERS) - National carrier Thai Airways International and Airbus plan to jointly open an aircraft maintenance and repair operations (MRO) hub in Thailand, a Thai Airways official said on Friday (Dec 15).
The hub will cost about 11 billion baht (S$455 million), of which about 7 billion baht will come from the Thai navy's budget, while a Thai Airways-Airbus joint venture will invest the rest, Thai Airways management and flying officer Ronnachai Wongchaoum told reporters in Bangkok.
The aviation maintenance hub will be set up at Thailand's U-Tapao Airport, a joint civil-military airport near the country's eastern seaboard.
The proposed project will add to the growing aviation maintenance sector spread across Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia, potentially posing a threat to Singapore, the region's dominant hub for aircraft maintenance and repair.
Thai Airways will start maintaining the Airbus A380 with the support of Airbus teams in U-Tapao, which is located 150km east of Bangkok, the airline said in a statement on Friday.
The new facility will provide services including heavy maintenance, line maintenance and aircraft painting services, the carrier added.
"Early next decade, new hangar facilities will be built, while U-Tapao will become a growing airport with eventually two runways," it said.
"The management of both companies have a joint vision for the new MRO campus to be the most modern aircraft maintenance facility equipped with the most modern aircraft technology," the Thai company said.
For years, successive Thai governments have talked about developing U-Tapao airport, currently used as a naval airbase, into an international commercial airport to support growing foreign tourist arrivals.